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Riot Baby

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  5,267 ratings  ·  1,034 reviews
"Riot Baby bursts at the seams of story with so much fire, passion and power that in the end it turns what we call a narrative into something different altogether."—Marlon James

Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published January 21st 2020 by Tordotcom
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,267 ratings  ·  1,034 reviews

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chai ♡
find this review & others on my blog

Freedom. I see freedom,” writes Toni Onyebuchi to close his book, and for a moment after I turned the last page, I knew lightness and silence, as if the world had tipped, almost fallen, but instead leaned, and then finally rebalanced. Hope blossomed in my chest then, unfolding gently as a flower. Later, while writing this review, it all slammed back, fast as arrow-shot. I suspect I will still be tumbling the events of this story over and over in my he
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the ideas here, the genre blurring, how the narrative grapples with what it means to be black in this country. There are some issues. The transitions are odd. I get the purpose but it became more frustrating than interesting. And I think the book needs another 40 or so pages so that parts of the story could expand. But still, great book.
Lala BooksandLala
Book 4 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge!

I don't think I've ever read a book this short, that succeeded at everything it could have accomplished even if given 400 more pages. The broadness of this idea and setting, paired with the intimacy of this family narrative could not have been a more perfect balance. We've got some big themes like racial injustice and incarceration in a dystopian setting, but also a beautiful sibling dynamic at the heart of the story that is simply moving.

I'm so glad
The Artisan Geek
------------------VIDEO REVIEW------------------

Finally a book review is up! :D

This book was definitely better the second time around! I think that if you aren't familiar with (black) history/culture in America you're going to have to work a little more in order to understand everything. Having done it, I would ay it was well worth the efoort and definitely would recommend reading it. My review will come out at the start of February.

A sincere thank you to for sending
James Tivendale
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: freecopy, sci-fi
I received an uncorrected proof copy of Riot Baby in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Tochi Onyebuchi and Tor.

Riot Baby begins in Compton, USA depicting topics that could have been straight out of an N.W.A song. Racism, police brutality, gang banging etc... This chapter is presented by a young lady Ella who is one of the two point of view perspectives. At the culmination of the chapter Ella's mother goes into labour in the midst of a brutal riot and gives birth to her little
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-reads
Ugh. This book got glowing reviews from many of my friends, but it just did not work for me. It has passion and anger — but it takes more than that to make a good story. Passion and anger and strong emotions can only carry it so far. N.K. Jemisin and P. Djèlí Clark use these to create powerful stories. This one, unfortunately, falls quite short.

Maybe if it was just a realistic fiction dealing with criminal justice system and its faults, it could have been better. Maybe if it was a fiery opinion
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
oooh, goodreads choice awards finalist for best science fiction 2020! what will happen?


fulfilling my 2020 goal to read (at least) one book each month that was given to me as a present that i haven't yet gotten around to reading because i am an ungrateful dick.

nothing i can say about this book is going to resonate as much as the author's own words, so:

This book, like its title character, saw a fiery birth. Formerly a swirl of disembodied phrases and feelings and half
Jananie (thisstoryaintover)
incredible scope and astounding intimacy. this book covers so much in so little time. as the author says in his acknowledgements, this book is "angry, the type of angry that still leaves room for love." Highly recommend. ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race, fiction
Riot Baby, though short, is powerful. It is a book that punches you in the gut with each of its 174 pages. 

It is the story of siblings Ella and Kev and how structural racism defines their lives, beginning in childhood. Kev is the Riot Baby, born during the LA riots of 1992, Ella the sister with mysterious powers. Their childhood is fraught with danger, and violence is an everyday affair. Somehow they survive into adulthood, when Kev is unjustly arrested and incarcerated, as so many young black m
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
This is my third attempt with this author and it’s probably my last. I just don’t think he is very good at writing fantasy. This novella is a combination of fantasy and realism. Ella has all sorts of powers (time travel, teleportation, ability to see the future), but none were explained or seemed to be applied in a useful way. The realistic parts of the book about the criminal justice system were better. 2.5 stars
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars - this is one of those books you read and think, ooo. I bet this author has a LOT more excellent work in them. I can't wait to read further into the author's oeuvre. I just loved the writing and the characters... I think this could have been either a little longer or a little shorter for my tastes, but overall, very thought provoking take on cycles of violence and how institutionalized violence has impacted the Black American experience ...more
Mel (Epic Reading)
”We don’t get where we’re going by matching hate for hate.”

This is an odd little story. I’m not sure I understood it all. But I hope I got enough of it that I know what Toni Onyebuchi is trying to say. It jumps around a lot. So be prepared to really pay attention.

My favourite part is when Onyebuchi describes using algorithms that are coded to persecute POC as the same as cops making conscious decisions. This is very powerful to me. Thus stating, systematic racism is no different than allowing
Matthew Quann
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, hype, pretty-short
Occasionally, when a big book lands I feel like I'm missing out if I don't immediately jump on board and get in on the cultural conversation. There's a palpable jolt of nerdy electricity when I get to touch the live wire of a popular new novel and join in the discussion. For armchair and couch thrill seekers like myself, the rub comes when you read with enough diversity that hyped-up books land on a seemingly weekly basis. The rest you know: I buy more books than I read, and when the initial FOM ...more
Riot Baby

Riot Baby is a story of Kev and Ella, two siblings from South Central Los Angeles, trapped into reliving their story over and over like an endless repetitive Groundhog Day, unable to ever break out of the roles society chose for them. Their interlinked stories are similar but different.

Kev was born as the 1992 LA riots raged and the inner city burned. For four or five days, all semblance of order left town as truckers were pulled out of their rigs and beaten nearly to death with bricks
Holly (The Grimdragon)
"But I can't get enough of what's going on outside. My body warms with it, like a space heater in my bones. One of the cops reaches down and uncuffs the guys on the ground, and Havoc gets back up as the cops back away, shouting, "You see the address! Come back later, pussy!" And it's not this, but the growing crowd, some of them with cameras, that makes the cops shuffle away. And it feels like victory."

Riot Baby is the adult debut science fiction novel by Tochi Onyebuchi. It follows siblings Ell
Brenda Waworga
This book is dark and full of anger of the injustice towards black people which is very accurate with what happened around the world lately but As much as i understand this is an important book that sending message to it's reader i couldn't feel connected with the writing style and plot

There are 2 main characters on this book Ella and Kev, they are sibblings .. Ella has this "THING" a power to see feature, to fly and all the magical things, while Kev her brother went to prison and Ella tried to
Tori (InToriLex)
This book was is about a future where mass incarceration's unchecked progression, meets the power of black woman with a Thing who can manipulate the world around her. A memorable family story that reflects on police brutality and killing within black communities. I really enjoyed this quick and imaginative read. ...more
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2020-shelf
I thought this was stunning. The writing was all kinds of gorgeous.

I think it's a perfect companion piece to watching Do the Right Thing or reading Between the World and Me or The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.

Note, each of these references are a bit more hardcore than the last. But it's all related.

After all my previous readings over the last few months, this is a perfect companion piece and a microcosm for what's been happening in America for hundreds
Zitong Ren
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really interesting of a read, that since the book is under 200 pages, I was able to get through over a single afternoon + evening. While it has some supernatural and speculative elements, I felt that the real focus was police brutality and injustice against Black people. It presented Black pain and anger really well, I found at least. It really ended up being such a powerful book and achieved a lot despite the low page count.

I think that in the state the world is in now, these stories d
The Nerd Daily
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth Mowbray

Riot Baby is the tale of siblings Ella and Kev who are gifted with tremendous powers. The book jumps back and forth across America, beginning on the West Coast where Kev is born amidst the 1992 Los Angeles riots, granting him the nickname “Riot Baby.” Although his sister is young, these riots and the atmosphere of the surrounding community are powerfully impactful for her.

The narrative next resumes with Ella and Kev after their mothe
Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club)
QUICK-ISH TAKE: I’m a huge science fiction nerd. There’s something about escaping into another world similar yet sensationalized from our own that I am drawn too. In addition to escapism, sci-fi has also been a way for me to explore and contemplate contemporary issues and ideas as seen through a funhouse mirror kinda way...a distorted reality exploring aspects of our own life that may be too subtle or complex to confront, stories and issues that ultimately help us understand ourselves and our wo ...more
Ashley Daviau
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is such a beautiful and yet heartbreaking book and I’m struggling to put my feelings about it into words because it just goes beyond words. This story was intense and hard hitting, Onyebuchi packs a lot into so few pages and it’s quite mind blowing. This little novella touches on so many things: a dystopian future, racial agression and injustice, oppression, police brutality, a broken justice system, supernatural abilities and one family’s love for each other. It truly is BREATH TAKING. It’ ...more
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've seldom read such an intense, angry and passionate voice. The stream of consciousness prose helped a lot to really feel the book. Yet sometimes it was so abstract that I had problems to follow what was going on. But the overall message struck hard.
It is impossible to share the mind of those two protagonists and don't come out of it angry oneself.

Recommended for everybody.
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020

Perfect book for the times we live in. The story is brimming with the anger of centuries of black people in America who have committed no other crime other than being black. It's harsh and powerful. I loved it. I wish it had been another 200 pages because I was thoroughly captured by the Tochi Onyebuchi's writing and didn't want it to end. I can't wait to read more by this author.
DNF at 30%. I could not immerse myself with this style of writing. Too jumbled for me. Maybe I'll try again next time. ...more
Kim Lockhart
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-books-2020
I am reminded of Charles Blow's epiphany that finding your voice means facing the past. You have to find the source of your pain, that "fire shut up in your bones."

Onyebuchi's powerful characters trace the cumulative effects of serial injustice and systemic racism. He delivers a visceral and compelling indictment of the intentionally evil as well as the willfully obtuse. And he injects all with the painful burning reminder that there is no redemption without blood, and no purification without fi
Daniel Villines
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every human act that works to exclude black people from society results in the creation of energy. Every time a black person is passed over for a whitecollar position, every time a law enforcement officer needlessly pulls a black driver over, every time the President of the United States gives an approving wink to white supremacy, a bit of tangible energy is imparted and waits to be harnessed. Riot Baby tells the story of what might become of that energy and how its ever-accumulating force may r ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, dystopian
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Ella and Kev are brother and sister, truly good kids, with a mom who loves them and works too hard. Ella has a Thing, an ability, but even being special doesn't give her power to change things. Instead she's barely there herself just taking in everyone else, a solitary witness. Kev on the other hand is too visible, over the course of a life he can't overcome a world out to notice his existence. Kev and Mama's experiences are Ella's catalyst to find their history.

This is a particularly timely and
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Tochi Onyebuchi is the author of Beasts Made of Night, its sequel Crown of Thunder, War Girls, and the upcoming Riot Baby, forthcoming from in January 2020. He has graduated from Yale University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia Law School, and L’institut d’études politiques with a Masters degree in Global Business Law.

His short fiction has appeared in Asimov's Scie

Articles featuring this book

"Oh, we are living a dystopian reality!" You've heard it, you may have even said it. But despite what's happening in the world—or maybe because...
96 likes · 26 comments
“It's not till she's outside that she realizes what she was looking for in there. What she's been looking for all these years. What she realizes now she no longer needs.
I am the locusts, Ella sends the thought out like a concussive wave, so that it hits every surveillance orb in the neighborhood, every wired cop, every crabtank in the nearby precinct. I am the locusts and the frogs and the rivers of blood.
I'm here now.”
“When you have a purpose that doesn't involve hurting someone else, it changes the way you walk.” 2 likes
More quotes…